Evidence of the impact of sport policies on physical activity and sport participation: a systematic mixed studies review

Authors: Kevin Volf, Liam Kelly, Enrique García Bengoechea, Bláthín Casey, Peter Gelius, Sven Messing, Sarah Forberger, Jeroen Lakerveld, Nicolette R Den Braver, Joanna Zukowska and Catherine B. Woods


Published in: International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics

Short description of the paper:

The sport participation can contribute to the achievement of guideline levels of Health-enhancing Physical Activity. Organisations like the International Society for Physical Activity for Health (ISPAH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have published documents advocating for public policy actions to promote sport participation. This review paper seeks to answer the question: Which policy actions have demonstrated impact in advancing sport and physical activity participation in the general population?

Six online databases were searched: Medline, SportDiscus, Cinahl, The Cochrane Library, Scopus and Web of Science. This search was supplemented with snowballing techniques. The materials identified by the search were reduced down to 22 papers relevant to our research question using a screening process summarised in figure 1.

Studies in our final synthesis were assigned a quality rating (ranging from 29% to 86%) and the findings of each quantitative study was assigned a code: “+” for significantly positive findings, “-“ for significantly negative findings “0” for findings that did not achieve statistical significance and “?” for findings with no associated significance test. Conclusions based on the findings were summarised in four inductively generated categories or areas: build sports facilities, reduce finance barriers, build capacity via partnerships with the sport sector, and promote public interest in sports.

The finds are summarised in table 1:  In our discussion we consider some of the contextual influences that may influence policy effectiveness. Our findings were somewhat limited by the fact that a majority of the evidence emanates from a single polity (the United Kingdom). We recommend policy evaluation utilising realist principles to elucidate these contextual influences.